Keeping up with the Carters.
I hardly expected anything from 4:44
You’ll find a tweet from my account (@Ashtronomics_ )to rudely back that up.
Lemonade was phenomenal and heart wrenching but I have never enjoyed Mr. Carter as much as I did Ms. Knowles or Ms. Carter. But I confess, apologetically as the titular track of this opus. 4:44 is nothing like I expected.
Starting with the twitter famous “The Story of OJ”, Jay Z’s powerful anaphor of “light nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga, rich nigga, poe nigga, house nigga, field nigga…still nigga” affect a certain political tone to 4:44 but it is so much more of a personal discourse than a public or political one. I admire the candid nature of the lyrics as the Marcy rapper exposes his own fragilities, made visible albeit from a very high horse. That duality of ‘4:44’: A rich man rapping about a poverty of his spirit is paradoxically a strength and a weakness of Shawn Carter’s latest album.
I can’t be feeling bad for Jay Z getting to cheat on Beyoncé and then surviving it culturally. That being said, the album discusses the karmic energies of his fling with “Becky” and I think there is now a realm of powerful truths about the relationship between the two music icons.
Now, the revelatory nature of Jay Z’s prose carries any listener across various concentric narratives – marital infidelities, his mother’s sexuality, his business ventures, his beef with Kanye West, and his relationship with his children – but the simple biggest story, cumulatively, is an intense autobiography that compels even the most cynical, critical of hip hop heads to appreciate the structure, the writing, the content and the cultural relevance of Beyoncé’s husband’s music.
I should mention that I don’t like the Frank Ocean song. I’m not sure why but as a huge Ocean fan I expected different.
Anyways, this album is, compared to some of my favorites from this decade, equally technically sound. There are so few holes in the decision-making, musically or thematically. Jay’s life is discussed so openly I’m excited to hear the newly rumored Beyoncé album.
Proudly, this is the first Jay Z album I plan to thoroughly listen to.